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Engineering New Career Exploration Opportunities

In addition to the four weeks of camp hosted at the University of Pittsburgh, the CampBioE team also headed to the Crossroads Foundation in Homewood for a free 4-day camp experience with 19 rising sophomore scholar participants. Here is an article reposted from the Crossroads Foundation about their experience...

If a mannequin head falls 25 feet from the Calland Center patio to the sidewalk below, does it make a sound? What if it’s full of gelatin? And wearing a helmet?

The answer, as this year’s rising sophomore scholars can tell you, is “yes, and the brain fragments get a little messy.” The experiment was just one of the many fascinating activities exploring bioengineering at Camp BioE. Now in its 11th year, Camp BioE is an interactive week-long exploration of bioengineering and regenerative medicine, which hosted its summer mentor training week at Crossroads for the first time this summer. The camp’s theme of STEM applications in criminal investigation had scholars gathering clues to solve an office murder mystery (complete with a crime scene set up in the back hallway).

Designed and facilitated by the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, CampBioE invites students--especially from groups underrepresented in STEM fields--to learn with a team of college student-mentors from Pitt and working professionals in STEM education, including Dr. Juel Smith (CCAC), Dr. Steven Abramowitch (University of Pittsburgh), and Mr. Mark “Special K” Krotec (Central Catholic High School).

“It’s so encouraging to see the faces of the campers, their parents and our staff as learning and growth takes place,” says Dr. Smith. “For us it’s not only about the campers themselves, but about our ability to change the lives of our interns and junior counselors as well. To expose them to diversity...and to assist in the development of the next generation of educators and scientists.”

On a given day during CampBioE, guests walking through the Calland Center might find

  • Scholars wearing giant bubble suits and building PVC pipe structures for a bio-themed relay race
  • Raw chicken in various parts of the office for tissue regrowth testing
  • A robotic machine serving hundreds of ping pong balls to scholars as a “lesson in biomechanics”
  • Mr. Krotec leading an “Enzymes” singalong to the tune of The Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.”

“Camp BioE was an amazing opportunity to learn about the principles of engineering and biology rolled into one, enhancing our inner scientists,” said Seton sophomore Hadia Killang. “My favorite part was when we dissected a chicken leg/thigh and learn[ed] about the different parts of the leg.”

Despite accounting for 30% of the population, black, hispanic, and native American students are awarded only 15% of the nation’s share of bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Our goal was to try to change that,” says Dr. Smith. The program’s vision, Dr. Abramowitch adds, “is that the field of STEM should reflect the population.”


About Crossroads Foundation: 

Crossroads Foundation is a non-denominational 501c3 enjoying its 30th school year as a Pittsburgh leader in providing educational equity to low-income youth.  We envision a world where all students, regardless of means, have access to the educational opportunities and support necessary to achieve their God-given potential.  Our mission is to provide promising, low-income youth who have limited access to a quality high school education, with tuition assistance to attend one of six local Catholic high schools partnered with a wide range of after-school and summer support in academics, college and career exploration, and personal guidance.  Learn more about us and our important work at www.crossroadsfoundation.org

Author: Esther Mellinger Stief, Executive Director, Crossroads Foundation